I’ll be honest, this started out as a top 5 list, but I had six dishes that truly stood out in my mind that I ate this year. I eat out a decent amount and I don’t always write about them–especially if the rest of the meal was distinctly underwhelming, as was the case in at least one of them. I like just picking a dish because I’m not judging the whole restaurant experience (another of these dishes was served with a side of horrifically bad service), nor am I needing to make extensive commentary. The only point of this is to give props to the creativity and skills of the chefs and restaurants around the city. They tend to lean towards newer restaurants, if for no other reason then that’s where I found innovative, taste-bud shocking (in the best way possible) flavors.
6. The pork belly I had at the wine dinner at Monsoon. This is the only one I have a picture of, but given that it stared out from my blog for altogether too long when it was first posted, I’m not going to add it over here as well. Scroll down to the bottom and read the description of my desire to swim in cabernet grape reduction to fully understand the lusciousness of this dish.
5. The Lamb’s Tongue Salad at Bastille. I noted this when I went as unbelievable. I clearly remembered it a month ago when I started this list. And still, as I try to jog my memory with other ingredients, what stands out is the surprisingly tender, beautiful meat, not generally what shines in a salad. This lamb tongue was delightful, great flavor, I could have eaten it as part of a much heavier main, yet the genius of the dish was that it was surrounded with a green, I believe dandelion, tiny chanterelle mushroom buttons and a few other lovely, light ingredients.
4. Springhill’s Smoked Oysters–okay, technically on the menu I believe the dish was under charcuterie and is titled “Sorpressata,” but while the sausage is lovely, it is not the star of the dish. No, the house-made sausage is clearly well made and delicious, but let’s talk about the true star of the show, the house alder smoked oysters. You know the smoked oysters that come in the can? I love those, but this is like comparing a Funyun to a beautifully crisp, freshly fried piece of shallot, like you’d get atop a fine French salad. The plate is rounded out with potato cracklins–which truly do conjure up the middle ground between fried pig skin and a potato chip. The red pepper sauce is the weakest individual component of the plate, but the whole dish works well together and each component matches the others so well. This dish, on its own, has brought me back to Springhill over and over.
3. Kimchi Quesadilla at Marination Mobile. After much deliberation, I chose the Kimchi Quesadilla as the dish I’d use form Marination. Really this Hawaiian taco truck has a few things I’d consider putting on this list, but the quesadilla was the first dish I had there and the one that blew my mind–after that first bite, I expected the unexpected and delicious. But the first time I saw the pinkish squiggles of sauce over my flour tortillas and bit in to the tangy bite of kimchi combined with tender soft pork, that was when I knew that this was something different. The Spam sliders might have changed my mind on a whole type of food, the spam musubi cemented that, but it was the kimchi quesadilla that floored me with possibilities.
2. Sometimes I think that hoping for new and innovative dim sum dishes in Seattle is a little like hoping for the Mariner’s to be in the World Series–Ain’t never gonna happen. So imagine my surprise when, in conversation with one of the men at Tea Garden, he mentioned that in addition to the pork stuffed taro balls, they also had ones with scallops inside. The first time we had this dish they were fresh out of the frier, and the scallop so perfectly cooked that it very nearly melted, spreading its sweet flavor throughout the crispy outside, the soft taro, one huge, delicious, if searingly hot bite. We returned and were able to order them a second time, but have since struck out twice and had them served less well prepared once. Was this moment of amazingness but a dim sum mirage? Here’s to hoping not!
1. Speaking of dishes that sometimes seem like a mirage, given the speed that B and I can demolish it, the not-on-the-menu (but nearly always available) Hamachi Collar with Bagna Cauda at Anchovies and Olives certainly qualifies. We were first offered this after two of the five dishes we asked for were sold out, but from then on we knew to ask for it by name every time. I get heartbroken when they’ve sold out of them for the evening. Collar is one of those cuts that Americans stay away from, most likely for its difficulty to eat. But when this chunk of fish lands on your table, you’ll abandon niceties and soon dig in with your fingers, if for no reason than after that flaky, tender fish is long gone, you can lick the anchovy and garlic spiked oil from your fingers and reminisce about the dish.